Last Night: Madonna at Toyota Center
A sharp influx of sequined booty shorts and fashionable ankle boots invaded downtown last night, and many of them were even worn by women. Madonna, the Queen Mother of pop music, was in Houston for the first of two nights at Toyota Center, and her legion of fans representing every color, creed and kink turned out in force to celebrate in style.
Madonna has made headlines all over the world this year for her political statements from the stage, and she made a few Wednesday night. There was nothing too controversial; she encouraged her admirers to exercise their right to vote in a few weeks and to cherish their freedoms despite the many dysfunctions of their government. Her endorsement of President Obama via temporary tramp stamp was less than shocking.
For her grand entrance of the evening, however, Madonna fell back on more reliable trespasses, appearing first in silhouette as she knelt in a floating confession booth. After an apology to the Almighty for the decadent fun to come, the star threw off a sexy, sheer burqa and lit into "Girl Gone Wild," the torrid opener from MDNA.
It was the first of eight songs of the evening from the new album. Though many of her critics are happy to paint Madonna as a relic, Wednesday's show was no nostalgia act. More than half of her set list was drawn from her 21st Century output, and even the classic hits from the '80s and '90s were freshened up significantly. "Express Yourself," for instance, included passages from Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," a tacit acknowledgement of Madonna's continuing influence on modern pop.
As for the woman herself, she certainly didn't look over the hill. Good luck finding another 54-year-old mother of four with a body like hers at your local gym. Madonna performed the show's characteristically detailed choreography as capably as ever, including a particularly impressive bit during "Gang Bang" that cast her as a Hollywood action star fighting off a band of paramilitary attackers in hand-to-hand combat. Milla Jovovich, eat your heart out.
Tickets to the show weren't cheap, but every cent of the price of admission Wednesday showed up onstage. LED platforms rose and fell beneath Madonna and her small army of dancers all night, which the performers navigated effortlessly.
In addition to the flying confession booth, a uniformed drumline twisted high above the stage during "Give Me All Your Luvin,'" a tune that also featured the singer twirling a mean baton. The sequence was spectacular enough to send TSU's Ocean of Soul marching band back to the drawing board.
Not everything went off without a hitch, of course. At times, Madonna appeared to be struggling to hear her monitors, leading to some slightly off-key singing on "Human Nature." During the set closer, "Celebration," the belt on her pleather jeggings refused to stay buckled.
Rather than humiliate the pop demigoddess, however, the minor gaffes served only to humanize her. Surrounded as she was by so much high-tech scenery and more than a little Autotune, it was reassuring to realize that Madonna is, indeed, made of flesh and blood.